Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Nopalea cochenillifera
(cochineal cactus)

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Datasheet

Nopalea cochenillifera (cochineal cactus)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Nopalea cochenillifera
  • Preferred Common Name
  • cochineal cactus
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Nopalea cochenillifera is a shrub or tree species reported as native to Mexico, but known from cultivation for centuries. It was introduced into tropical and subtropical areas after the Spanish colonisation of...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Nopalea cochenillifera (L.) Salm-Dyck

Preferred Common Name

  • cochineal cactus

Other Scientific Names

  • Cactus cochenillifer L.
  • Opuntia cochenillifera (L.) Mill.

International Common Names

  • English: cochineal nopal cactus; cochineal-plant; nopal cactus; nopales opuntia; prickly pear; slippery cassie; sweet palm; velvet opuntia; warm hand; woolly joint prickly pear
  • Spanish: nochestli; nocheznopal; nopal chamacuero; nopal de cochinilla; nopal de la cochinilla; nopal de San Gabriel; nopal nochetzli; nopalea cactus; tunita
  • French: cocheniller; raquette Espagnole; raquette sans piquant
  • Portuguese: cacto-de-cochonilha; cacto-sem-espinhos; palma; palma-de-engorda
  • German: Cochenille-Feigenkaktus; wachet

Local Common Names

  • Anguilla: French prickle
  • Barbados: scrunchineel
  • Brazil: cacto-sem-espinho; cardo-de-cochinilha; nopal; palma-doce; palma-forrageira; palma-miuda; palmatória; palmatória-doce; urumbeta
  • Cuba: tuna; tuna blanca; tuna mansa
  • Dominican Republic: alquitira
  • El Salvador: cactus; higo chombo; tuna nopal
  • French Guiana: raquette
  • Guam: lengua-de-vaca
  • Guyana: cochineal
  • Indonesia: kaktus centong
  • Mexico: biaa; piaa
  • Norway: cochenillekaktus
  • Palau: esbocheb
  • Philippines: dapal; dila-dila; dilang-baka; palad
  • Saint Helena: English tungy; Opuntia; white tungy
  • Suriname: nopari
  • Sweden: kochenillkaktus
  • Venezuela: tuna real

Summary of Invasiveness

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Nopalea cochenillifera is a shrub or tree species reported as native to Mexico, but known from cultivation for centuries. It was introduced into tropical and subtropical areas after the Spanish colonisation of Mexico, to raise cochineal insects to produce red dyes commercially. Although this industry declined with the introduction of synthetic dyes, the species is still used for this purpose at a smaller scale. N. cochenillifera is now mainly used as an ornamental, a fodder/forage species and a vegetable. It is reported as a potential noxious weed due to its ease of reproducing vegetatively through plant fragments. It is reported as invasive in Hawaii (USA), Cuba, Guatemala and French Polynesia. However, no details about its impacts on other species or habitats have been recorded.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Cactaceae
  •                             Genus: Nopalea
  •                                 Species: Nopalea cochenillifera

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Cactaceae family includes several species of economic importance. The family has over 1450 species and c. 127 genera, with the greatest species richness being observed in Mexico (Hernández-Hernández et al., 2011). Nopalea comes from “nopal”, a local Mexican name for cactus, and cochenillifera refers to the cochineal insect cultivated on these plants for producing a red colour dye (Downs, 1965).

Description

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The following description is from Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2017):

Shrubs or trees to 4-5 m; trunks 15-20 cm diameter. Stem segments linear to narrowly obovate, sometimes slightly falcate, (10-)15-35(-50) x 5-15 cm; areoles 2-3+ cm apart, 2-5 mm diameter; wool tawny, whitening with age. Spines usually absent or 1(-3), particularly on older pads, straight or curved, brown, aging grey, stout, to 2 cm. Glochids inconspicuous. Flowers 4-7 cm; inner tepals spatulate; crowded pink filaments and white style much longer than tepals, to 15 mm; nectar chamber elliptic to obconic. Fruits ellipsoid, 25-40 x 20-25 mm; areoles well distributed. Seeds tan to grey, 3-5 x 1.5-3 mm, slightly pubescent.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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According to Dressler (1953), N. cochenillifera is native to southern Mexico, but Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012) include Central America in its native range. The precise native range is unknown, as it is difficult to differentiate original populations from those from areas where the species has been cultivated for centuries (Arreola et al., 2013). The species has been introduced in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America (see Distribution Table for details; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Flora do Brasil, 2017; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017; PIER, 2017;  USDA-ARS, 2017).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

ChinaPresentIntroduced1901Encyclopedia of Life, 2017
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2017
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2017
-HainanPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2017
IndiaPresentIntroducedDonkin, 1977; Flowers of India, 2017
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedSainkhediva, 2015
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedBased on regional distribution
-JavaPresentIntroduced1855Donkin, 1977
IsraelPresentIntroducedCaruso et al., 2010
MyanmarPresentIntroduced1913Donkin, 1977
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced1880Donkin, 1977Also a report from Opuntia cochenillifera? c. 1695
SingaporePresentIntroducedPIER, 2017Also as cultivated
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced1824Donkin, 1977
SyriaPresentIntroduced1932Donkin, 1977
ThailandPresentIntroduced1931Donkin, 1977

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroduced1883Donkin, 1977
MozambiquePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Myre, 1974
Saint HelenaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2017
South AfricaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedHanelt, 2017
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedDomingues, 1960

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2017
CanadaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Lans et al., 2006
MexicoPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Yucatán
USAPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedDave's Garden, 2017
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017
-FloridaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Mill et al., 1985; New York Botanical Garden, 2017; PIER, 2017Also as cultivated. Kaua’i, Maui, O’ahu
-TexasPresentIntroducedDave's Garden, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2017
Antigua and BarbudaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BarbadosPresentIntroduced1901Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; New York Botanical Garden, 2017
BelizePresentIntroducedNew York Botanical Garden, 2017
British Virgin IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive D'Arcy, 1967Persistent after cultivation at Tortola
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroduced1891Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017Grand Cayman
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017Puntarenas, San José
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; New York Botanical Garden, 2017Transformer species
DominicaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced1871Howard, 1961; New York Botanical Garden, 2017
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017La Libertad
GrenadaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced1892New York Botanical Garden, 2017
GuatemalaPresentIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017; PIER, 2017Probably introduced. Also cultivated
HaitiPresentIntroduced1925New York Botanical Garden, 2017
HondurasPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Lentz, 1993Near houses for household consumption
JamaicaPresentIntroduced1890Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017
MartiniquePresentIntroduced1888Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; New York Botanical Garden, 2017
MontserratPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Netherlands AntillesPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017Atlántico Sur, Granada, Managua, Masaya
PanamaPresentIntroduced1913Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017Canal area
Puerto RicoPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1906 Not invasive Spencer, 1955; New York Botanical Garden, 2017At Desecheo Island (evidently planted), Vieques, Culebra
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced1903Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; New York Botanical Garden, 2017
Saint LuciaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Sint EustatiusPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Sint MaartenPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedNew York Botanical Garden, 2017
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedNew York Botanical Garden, 2017St. John

South America

BoliviaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017Santa Cruz
BrazilPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-AlagoasPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-BahiaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-CearaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-GoiasPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-ParaibaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-ParanaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-Rio Grande do NortePresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2017
ColombiaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedHanelt, 2017
French GuianaPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2017
GuyanaPresentIntroducedLeuenberger, 1987; Encyclopedia of Life, 2017
PeruAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedHanelt, 2017
SurinamePresentIntroduced1903Leuenberger, 1987
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedDíaz P and Delasio-Chitty, 2007Bolivar, Guyana Venezolana

Europe

SpainAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedHanelt, 2017

Oceania

Cook IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive McCormack, 2007Not naturalized
FijiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017Also cultivated. Ovalau Island
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2017Also cultivated. Marquesa, Society and Austral Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago
GuamPresentIntroduced1970Donkin, 1977; PIER, 2017
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
US Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017

History of Introduction and Spread

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N. cochenillifera is a perennial shrub/tree cactus species that has been introduced into various countries as a host of the cochineal insect for the commercial production of red dyes (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; PIER, 2017). Its further use as an ornamental, vegetable and forage/fodder species has contributed to its spread (PIER, 2017).

The use of the species in the textile dye industry was well established in Mexico when the Spanish arrived to that country. From Mexico, they took the cactus and the cochineal insect to southern Spain, India, Africa, Colombia, Jamaica and the Canary Islands (Hanelt, 2017). France was also one of the leading importers of cochineal insects in the mid-nineteenth century (Donkin, 1977). The species was present in Asia and Oceania prior to the 1800s (Byles, 1951) and there is an unconfirmed record for the Philippines dated from about 1695 (Donkin, 1977). N. cochenillifera has been present in the Caribbean since the 1800s (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017; New York Botanical Garden, 2017). Although no date is given, Fuentes Fiallo (2011-2012) reports the species was introduced to Cuba as a host of Dactylopius coccus. In the eighteenth century, it was introduced by the Portuguese from the Canary Islands to Brazil (Domingues, 1960).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
China 1901 Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes No Encyclopedia of Life (2017) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
India Mexico 1795 Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Indonesia 1855 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Myanmar 1913 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Philippines 1880 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Sri Lanka 1824 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Syria 1932 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Thailand 1931 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Cuba 1903 Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes No New York Botanical Garden (2017) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Jamaica Mexico 1891 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Missouri Botanical Garden (2017) As a host organism, for the cultivation of cochineal insects
Martinique 1888 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No New York Botanical Garden (2017) As a host organism
Algeria 1833 Intentional release (pathway cause) No No Donkin (1977) Introduced by the French as a host organism for the cultivation of cochineal insects

Risk of Introduction

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N. cochenillifera has a medium risk of introduction into tropical and subtropical areas because of its use as an ornamental, a vegetable and as a forage/fodder species. Although the Cactaceae trade is regulated by CITES and the species is reported as only in cultivation in some countries, its high reproductive potential and the possibility of it spreading different pests make it a species of concern, with the potential of becoming invasive (Dave's Garden, 2017IUCN, 2017; LLifle, 2017).

Habitat

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N. cochenillifera is reported from tropical dry forests, mountain slopes, hammocks, fields, sandy soils, dunes, forest openings, semi-arid scrub forest, savannas, coastal forests and cultivated fields (Arreola et al., 2013; Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Flora do Brasil, 2017; ISSG, 2017; LLifle, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). It is found from sea level up to elevations of 1500 m (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017).

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for this species is 2n = 22 (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2017). In vitro propagation techniques have been developed for N. cochenillifera and germplasm collections are stored at USA Agricultural Research Station facilities (Brasil et al., 2005; Houllou-Kido et al., 2009; USDA-ARS, 2017). DNA barcode information for the species is available at the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD, 2017).

Reproductive Biology

N. cochenillifera easily propagates vegetatively, the pads rooting rapidly in loose, well-draining soil (ISSG, 2017; LLifle, 2017). It can also be propagated by seed, which need to be fermented to simulate passing through the digestive tract of natural dispersers (LLifle, 2017). Flowers are visited by bees, butterflies and birds (Dave's Garden, 2017). In cultivation, fruits must be overripe before harvesting the seeds, which need to be sown as soon as possible (Dave's Garden, 2017).

Physiology and Phenology

N. cochenillifera flowers from March to September (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; ISSG, 2017). It is sensitive to root rot if over-watered (LLifle, 2017).

Associations

N. cochenillifera is one of the hosts of the cochineal insect Dactylopius coccus (Downs, 1965).

Environmental Requirements

N. cochenillifera grows best in full sun and in any kind of well-drained soil (Dave's Garden, 2017). It tolerates drought, but prefers regular watering (Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). It grows in soils with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 (Dave's Garden, 2017). The species survives to -2°C, but is not frost resistant, not withstanding temperatures lower than -5°C (LLifle, 2017). When grown as an ornamental in temperate areas, the plant needs to be moved inside during winter (Dave's Garden, 2017).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
32 31 0 1500

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -5
Mean annual temperature (ºC) -2 35

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall4301500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alternaria alternata Pathogen Stems not specific
Cactoblastis Herbivore Stems not specific
Cactoblastis cactorum Herbivore Stems not specific Australia
Cactus virus X Pathogen Other/All Stages not specific
Dactylopius Herbivore Stems not specific
Dactylopius coccus Herbivore Stems not specific
Diaspis echinocacti Herbivore Stems not specific
Neofusicoccum batangarum Pathogen Stems not specific
Pythium aphanidermatum Pathogen Stems not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The natural enemies reported for N. cochenillifera are the insects Dactylopius coccus, Dactylopius spp., Cactoblastis spp., Diaspis echinocacti, the fungi Alternaria tenuis [Alternaria alternata], Pythium aphanidermatum, Neofusicoccum batangarum, and the pathogen Cactus virus X (Lastra et al., 1976; Born et al., 2009; Lima et al., 2011; Conforto et al., 2016; Feijó et al., 2016; ISSG, 2017).

The insect Cactoblastis cactorum, which has been introduced as a biological control agent for cacti in Australia, Africa and the Caribbean, is considered a threat to native cacti species of Central, North America and the Caribbean (Zimmermann et al., 2000; Solis et al., 2004).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

N. cochenillifera spreads vegetatively and can also be propagated by seed (LLifle, 2017).

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Seeds of N. cochenillifera are spread by birds and bats (LLifle, 2017).

Accidental Introduction

N. cochenillifera can be dispersed through garden waste (PIER, 2017).

Intentional Introduction

N. cochenillifera has been intentionally introduced into much of its range for its cultivation as the host of the cochineal insect and as an ornamental, vegetable or forage/fodder species (Arreola et al., 2013; Hanelt, 2017).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Breeding and propagationAs an ornamental Yes Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
Escape from confinement or garden escapePlanted as an ornamental; propagates easily vegetatively Yes Yes PIER, 2017
FoodUsed as a vegetable Yes Yes Hanelt, 2017
ForageUsed as a fodder/forage species Yes Yes Hanelt, 2017
Garden waste disposalPlanted as an ornamental Yes Yes PIER, 2017
Habitat restoration and improvementSuggested for restoration of mined habitats Yes Yes Howard, 1991
Hedges and windbreaksPlanted as an ornamental for hedges Yes Yes Hanelt, 2017
HorticultureUsed as ornamental Yes Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
Intentional releaseIntroduced as an ornamental, a host of the cochineal insect, a vegetable and a fodder/forage species Yes Yes Encyclopedia of Life, 2017
Live food or feed tradePads are sold to be eaten as a vegetable Yes
Medicinal useSeveral uses in traditional medicine Yes Yes Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017
Nursery tradeAvailable at various nurseries and online sites Yes Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
Off-site preservation Germplasm preserved Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes
People foragingUsed as a vegetable Yes Yes Encyclopedia of Life, 2017
Seed tradeAvailable at online sites Yes Yes Dave's Garden, 2017

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesCan spread through garden waste Yes PIER, 2017
Germplasm Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
Host and vector organismsThe species is a host organism of the cochineal insectEncyclopedia of Life, 2017
MailAvailable online Yes Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
Soil, sand and gravelCan be spread through garden waste Yes PIER, 2017

Environmental Impact

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The species is reported as a potential noxious weed due to its high reproductive potential and the ease by which it spreads vegetatively through plant fragments. It can also potentially spread pests that might have a negative effect on other cacti species. Nevertheless, more information about the potential impacts of N. cochenillifera on native species and habitats is needed.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact mechanisms
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Economic Value

For centuries, N. cochenillifera has been widely cultivated for its use as a host of the cochineal insect, in order to produce red dyes (Arreola et al., 2013). Although this use declined with the appearance of synthetic dyes, the species is still cultivated to produce dyes, which are used as natural colouring in food, soft drinks and cosmetics (LLifle, 2017; PIER, 2017). In a note found in a 1906 specimen from Puerto Rico, it is written that, in 1868, the export value of the species from the Canary Islands alone was 4,000,000 USA dollars (New York Botanical Garden, 2017). The species is also widely used commercially as an ornamental, a vegetable and a forage/fodder species (Dave's Garden, 2017; Encyclopedia of Life, 2017).

Social Benefit

N. cochenillifera is used as an ornamental species for hedges, and is used for producing glue, handicrafts and furniture (Martínez Betancourt et al., 2000; Fuentes Fiallo, 2002; Lira et al., 2009; Hanelt, 2017). The stems and fruits are used as a vegetable, eaten raw or cooked (Arreola et al., 2013; LLifle, 2017). It is also used in religious ceremonies (Fuentes Fiallo, 2003) and as a fodder and forage species (ISSG, 2017).

The following medicinal uses are reported for the species: to treat rheumatism, haemorrhoids, ear pain, headaches, fever, babies’ colds, hypertension, tumours, inflammation, coughs, fungal skin infections, indigestion, kidney and spleen problems, and to purify the blood (Weeks and Black, 1992; Martínez Betancourt et al., 2000Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). Indigenous communities in Mexico use it to bathe mother and infant at post-partum (Smith-Oka, 2008). It is also used as a shampoo (Handler and Jacoby, 1993). In ethnoveterinary medicine, it is used to treat inflammation in horses (Lans et al., 2006).

Environmental Services

N. cochenillifera is used to enrich the soil, trap water and prevent its loss through evaporation (ISSG, 2017). The species has been suggested for use in phytoremediation of waste products of the textile-dye industry and as an hyperaccumulator and phytoremediator of chromium (Adki et al., 2012; 2013). It is also recommended for the revegetation of mined bauxitic soils and the rehabilitation of degraded arid habitats (Le Houerou, 1976; Howard, 1991).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage
  • Invertebrate food

Environmental

  • Amenity
  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Revegetation
  • Soil improvement
  • Wildlife habitat

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Ritual uses
  • Sociocultural value

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Cosmetics
  • Dyestuffs
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore
  • Veterinary

Ornamental

  • garden plant

Wood Products

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Furniture

Woodware

  • Wood carvings

Prevention and Control

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Control

Biological control

Cochineal (Dactylopius spp.) and cactoblast (Cactoblastis spp.) insect species have been used as biological control agents for N. cochenillifera (ISSG, 2017). Cactoblastis cactorum, which was introduced as a biological agent for cacti in Australia, Africa and the Caribbean, is also reported as a threat to native cacti of Central and North America (Zimmermann et al., 2000).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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More detailed information about the species impacts on invaded habitats and other species is needed.

References

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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the seed plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1-1192. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

Adki, V. S., Jadhav, J. P., Bapat, V. A., 2012. Exploring the phytoremediation potential of cactus (Nopalea cochenillifera Salm. Dyck.) cell cultures for textile dye degradation. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 14(6), 554-569. http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/bijp20 doi: 10.1080/15226514.2011.619226

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Cook Islands Biodiversity databasehttp://cookislands.bishopmuseum.org
Dave's Gardenhttp://davesgarden.com/
Flora do Brasilhttp://reflora.jbrj.gov.br/reflora/listaBrasil/ConsultaPublicaUC/ConsultaPublicaUC.do#CondicaoTaxonCP
Flowers of Indiahttp://www.flowersofindia.net/
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global Invasive Species Databasehttp://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/index.php
LLifle Enclyclopedias of Living Formshttp://www.llifle.com/
Mansfeld's World Database of Agriculture and Horticultural Cropshttp://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/apex/f?p=185:3::::::
New York Botanical Garden databasehttp://sweetgum.nybg.org/science/vh/
Plants of The Eastern Caribbeanhttp://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/
The Barcode of Life Data Systemshttp://www.boldsystems.org/
Useful Tropical Plantshttp://tropical.theferns.info/

Contributors

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05/03/17 Original text by:

Jeanine Vélez-Gavilán, Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, USA

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